With teenage sensations Jeiron Barbosa and Charlie Marquez challenging established veterans such as Jevian Toledo and Victor Carrasco for superiority in Maryland’s jockey colony, the return of journeyman Feargal Lynch went relatively unnoticed.
Not any more. Lynch, a native of Northern Ireland and former champion apprentice in England who turned 44 in March, jumped out to a fast start at Laurel Park’s 37-day summer meet with four wins over opening weekend including a hat trick June 5.
Lynch was blanked on four mounts Friday but finished third in Race 5 aboard 3 Seasons Racing’s Magic Mule, trained by Kerry Hohlbein, and was beaten a nose on Stone Farm’s Bad to the Bones in Race 9 for trainer Graham Motion. He ranks second in the meet standings, one behind Barbosa’s five wins.
“I think the turf opening up has definitely helped my business,” Lynch said. “I take the winters off now, so come Thanksgiving I give my body a break. I go back and see my parents and go to Europe and I don’t start riding again until March. It just takes a little while to get going again and get the contacts back up and running. My agent does a great job. When you ride for the right people, that helps.”
Represented by agent Chris Pipito, Lynch had two mounts after Thanksgiving 2021 and none between Dec. 16 and April 1, when Wet My Beak ran fifth in a maiden special weight at Laurel for Motion. Lynch picked up his first win of the year aboard Funwhileitlasted, trained by Brittany Russell, April 14. He was second with Khuluq for trainer Chad Brown in the $100,000 Weber City Miss April 16.
“[We] pick and choose. I want to spend more time back in Europe with my family. My parents are getting older. I like to go to Spain and play golf with my dad,” Lynch said. “We work hard all spring and summer, then we go home for Christmas and December, January, February [I] just give the body a break. You’re not missing the weather here. It’s just like Mario Pino did for a bit at the end. It gives you a bit longer for a career.”
The 60-year-old Pino retired last October after being one of just 10 North American jockeys to reach 7,000 wins. Well-established in the Mid-Atlantic, including six riding titles at Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, Pino rode at least 1,100 races between 1979 and 2003. He didn’t surpass 1,000 in a season since, and never reached even half that many per year after 2010.
Pimlico’s leading or co-leading rider in 2017 and 2018, Lynch had career highs of 135 wins, 748 mounts and $5.32 million in purse earnings in 2017. He missed some time after suffering small fractures in his back following a spill at Laurel in June 2020, but rebounded with 37 wins and nearly $2 million in purses earned last year from 251 mounts.
“I suppose if I keep getting on the right horses on the stake days and right people still want to use me then we’ll keep going,” Lynch said.
Lynch went 2-for-20 during the Preakness Meet at Pimlico and 3-for-18 at Laurel’s spring stand, but also had 11 horses scratched over the same time period.
“We had some nice horses lined up for the last few weeks, actually. We’ve been a little bit unlucky with races coming off the turf. We had a lot of very live horses that had to scratch, which is unfortunate, but it all came together at the start of this meet and hopefully it can continue,” Lynch said. “We’ve got some nice rides coming up, so we’re looking forward to that.”
One of those comes Saturday at Belmont Park, when Lynch will get another leg up on R. Larry Johnson’s 8-year-old True Valour in the Jaipur (G1) sprinting six furlongs on the grass as part of the Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard. Trained by Motion, True Valour ended a 13-month gap between starts with a front-running triumph in the $100,000 King T. Leatherbury April 23 at Laurel.
“He was impressive. He was very sharp out of the gate in the King Leatherbury,” Lynch said. “We’re very happy with him. He’s been training great and we’re taking a shot at a Grade 1. With these sprinters, you have to. This is a hardened old horse and he’s been all around the world. They tried to stretch him out a lot in Europe and when he went to California, but he seems to be a sprinter. Graham has found a key to him and has revived him.”